Saturday, November 24, 2012

Molding the Plastic Self

So, let's get the plug out of the way. My romantic-comedy-science-fiction serial Helping Henry is currently appearing at the Flash Fiction Fest website, along with short fiction by P.T. Dilloway, and Neil Vogler, who started the whole thing.  After November, all the stories from Flash Fiction fest will be compiled with additional material -- three new stories each from Pat and Neil, and two new chapters of Helping Henry along with five thousand words on the science and thought behind Henry from me. Every week two copies of the final collection will be given away to commenters at Flash Fiction Fest. So go read some stories, and leave some comments -- the more comments, the better your odds.


So the last time I talked about my current state, I mentioned my realization that habits are actual structures in the brain with motivations of their own, and that I had never developed any ability to act on behalf of my future self.

Here's how I've been acting on those insights.

First, I've been paying a different kind of attention to my moods. Recognizing that my catastrophic mood swings are due to a specific emotional habit has allowed me to isolate that pattern. Here is where I find techniques of ritual and meditation learned during my study of occult and mystical traditions proves useful.

Let me reiterate. I do not believe in supernatural influences -- but while I went through my slow period of rejecting those concepts in favor of scientific materialism, I still find meditation and ritual very useful.

Personification and anthropomorphization are basic concepts in operating from a magical state of mind. By assuming that whatever you deal with has a personality, and relates to basic human needs, you have a basis for addressing and negotiating with it.

If you apply this kind of thinking to some problems, like driving, the results are disastrous. But when dealing with internal forces, they can serve as a means of relating to oneself in a functional and intuitive fashion.

So I have been addressing the mood swing or whatever you want to call it, that circuit linking rage, fear, and grief that has been the main source of suffering in my life since childhood, and I've been regarding it as something distinct from my essential self. I've been talking to it, listening to it, negotiating with it.

When I incorporated images of brain cell growth and synaptic connection with the metaphor of programming, I understood why my attempts to confront these emotions had only strengthened them. A distant, caring but somewhat scornful attitude has started to take root, and as a result, I've had the easiest fall I can remember. By stepping back from my desire to work things into a huge emotional maelstrom, I've been able to keep cool -- the one real upset I've had with the missus was settles in less than an hour, and both of us felt responsible for it, rather than seeing it as something the other person was doing.

That ball of emotional turmoil, that cauldron of rage I've relied on to power me through life, is cooling.

And as for learning to care for the future self.

This is actually a much more difficult task, but as I mention in the latest Henry story, impossibly complicated tasks are actually the easiest because they offer you lots of options for action -- all you have to do is start taking them.

Slovenliness has always been one of my sins. My workspace has traditionally been not simply messy, but filthy. It has been well over a decade since my studio was entirely ship-shape, and the last time I cleaned seriously I found pine needles under a window that had been there so long they had decayed to humus. The pine tree's been gone for years. This is one of those areas of my life where things get so bad they take on a grandeur at complete odds with their essential nature.

And I know damned well that a properly arranged workspace gets more work out of me. Simple as that. I was talking this over with the hon. Richard Talleywhacker, and he said, "Yeah, it's going to freak you out and you're going to try and clean the whole thing and you're going to blow your back out again."

Ouch. Too true.

This was my opportunity for taking my first step in the development of learning to care for future Sean. Present Sean wants a clean room, is willing to work for it, but is not willing to work unless he personally sees the results.

So I started cleaning for twenty minutes each morning before I begin work. And it's not just that I have to do at least twenty minutes worth of work. It's that I have to stop after those twenty minutes. Future Sean will be able to do his twenty minutes if I take care of Future Sean's back.

And if I do this every day, sooner or later I'll be looking for things to do.

So every day the studio  looks a little nicer, and I remind myself it's something I'm doing for myself. And sooner or later, the twenty minutes will encompass fun tasks like taking care of the musical instruments and arranging my bookshelves. The eventual goal is to turn my studio into a real media machine.

And it's not going to happen any time soon. What's important is putting in that twenty minutes a day, appreciating what I did the day before, and learning to develop a benevolent relationship with the man who's going to have to live my life tomorrow.


pongacha said...

Exactness and neatness in moderation is a virtue, but carried to extremes narrows the mind.
~Francois Fenelon

Sean Craven said...

Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

- Gustave Flaubert